ASPEN, Colo. -- Everyone expected to see history made Saturday night in the Ski Big Air final at X Games Aspen, where a handful of freeskiers promised to land the first triple corks in X Games history. But no one could have imagined the trick Henrik Harlaut would use to clinch the gold medal.
The 21-year-old master of style from Åre, Sweden, landed an unprecedented nose butter triple cork 1620 for a perfect 50-point score that left the crowd roaring in awe.
Harlaut had never tried the trick before Saturday; combined with his trademark nose butter double cork 1260s, he finished with 97 points, six higher than runner-up Kai Mahler of Switzerland.
"I had that trick in my mind for the past month but wasn't really planning on trying it unless I had to," Harlaut said. "Tanner Hall, Taylor Seaton and Vincent Gagnier were up there (at the top of the course) and they motivated me. Tanner was like, 'Yo dog, you gotta make history, let's do it.'"
Going into the competition, Harlaut was one of the few skiers who was not expected to try a triple cork, and he would have won without it based on the scores he received for his nose butter double cork 1260s and 1080s, which gave him 93 points in the best-two-runs format.
But after Gus Kenworthy landed his patented switch triple rodeo Japan to kick off the triple barrage in Heat 1 and Elias Ambühl, Bobby Brown and Mahler followed up with triple cork 1440s, Harlaut decided to throw the trick. He hadn't hit a jump since mid-December until he got to Aspen this week, but the layoff didn't matter.
"I just had time to think about it," he said.
Harlaut also bucked conventional logic by heading into the jump with no goggles to protect his eyes from the misty fog and wet snowflakes. The win gave him his first X Games medal and followed two straight seventh-place finishes in Big Air.
Mahler, meanwhile, earned his second straight Big Air silver medal despite taking only three jumps in the 18-minute jam session. He tweaked his knee and sat out until just four minutes remained, then landed his final two jumps -- a pair of switch double misty 1440s -- to bump fellow Swiss innovator Ambühl to bronze and defending champ Brown off the podium into fourth.
The night was filled with spectacular feats and gutwrenching crashes, historic firsts and wild near-misses. Kenworthy looked like he'd have a shot at gold with the switch triple rodeo Japan, but he failed to land numerous attempts in the final and ultimately reverted to a double cork 1620. Alex Schlopy also came close to making history but exploded on an attempted 1980-degree spin and lost his ski in Heat 2.